COVID-19 infections in school-age children who are too young to be vaccinated peaked in late September to unprecedented levels, but are now trending down, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Cases in children age five to 11 have seen a “dramatic drop,” Henry said Tuesday as she delivered the province’s first monthly report on the impact of the virus on children in K-12 schools.
Infection rates in 12- to 17-year-olds continue to be low, particularly in areas where vaccination levels are high in that age group, she said.
Less than one-third of B.C. schools have reported a COVID cluster so far this school year, about the same as last year at this time, though there has been “slightly increased transmission,” most of which has come from outside the classroom, Henry said.
She said there has been a slight increase in the median number of children involved in a COVID cluster this year, from one or two last year to three.
The rate of new positive COVID cases in kids ages nine to 11 peaked in late September at 47 per 100,000, with about 39 per 100,000 in children ages five to eight, based on a seven-day rolling average. Those numbers have now dropped to about 29 and 23 respectively.
Island Health’s reported increases in COVID cases in children in late September were among the lowest of the health authorities. The biggest increases were in Northern Health and Interior Health.
The number of school-age children, and even younger children, being tested for COVID has increased dramatically, in part due to a number of respiratory viruses circulating this fall. The first positive case of influenza was recorded in the province this week.
Henry said there’s been a steady decrease in the number testing positive since late September.
The province is monitoring for serious illness related to COVID in school-age children. Unlike in the United States, “we have thankfully not seen that here in B.C., but we will continue to watch,” Henry said.
In the past week, five children age four or under have been admitted to hospital with COVID, one aged between five and 11, and one between 12 and 17. None were admitted to the intensive-care unit.
Hospitalization of fully vaccinated youths age 12 to 17 is rare, which is a reminder of the importance of protecting children through vaccination, Henry said.
Pfizer announced Monday it has applied for Canadian authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11, which includes about 340,000 kids in B.C.
The monthly updates will be posted on the B.C. Centre For Disease Control website.